Poliovirus detected in Peshawar, Pishin sewage samples

Two sewage samples collected from Peshawar and Pishin districts have tested positive for wild poliovirus (WPV1).

The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health notified on Wednesday that WPV1 was isolated from an environmental sample collected from Naray Khuwar in Peshawar on September 5 and from Turwa in Pishin on Sept 4.

According to the lab, which is also the WHO Regional Reference Lab, the Peshawar sample is connected to the virus detected in Nangarhar, while the Pishin sample is connected to a virus in Kandahar.

Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan said that the presence of poliovirus on any side of the border remained a constant threat to all children everywhere.

“A nationwide polio campaign is scheduled in October to vaccinate over 44 million children under five against this disability-causing virus. I urge parents and caregivers to ensure that their children are vaccinated in this campaign,” he said.

Dr Jan said that while the persistent detection of the virus in the environment was highly concerning, it also highlighted the efficiency of the Pakistan Polio Programme’s surveillance system.

“As two countries with historic geographic and demographic ties, Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot eradicate polio without each other, and both countries stand united in their fight against polio,” he added.

It may be mentioned here that this is the 11th positive sample from Peshawar this year and the first positive environmental sample from Balochistan since April 2021.

Both districts were covered in the polio vaccination campaign at the beginning of August, while the next drive is planned from October 2 onwards, which will be a national drive.

Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Shallwani said Pakistan was committed to eradicating polio and had seen a remarkable decline in the number of cases in recent years.

“We are fighting the virus wherever we find it, through swift and effective vaccination campaigns, and we will not rest until we have made Pakistan polio-free,” he added.

Pakistan has reported two polio cases and 24 positive environmental samples this year, while five cases have been reported in Afghanistan and 33 positive environmental samples.

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